A step-by-step, start-to-finish overview of a Smucker’s Energy Commercial system installation and start-up.
372KW 480VAC 3 Phase Commercial Installation with a 1,690 Panel PV Solar Array (designed to offset 100% of the electric usage for three businesses under one roof).
Commercial systems come in all shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to roof systems. Fortunately, there are many mounting options for roof solar systems, covering everything from standing-seam roof attachment options to ballasted system mounts, which are ideal for large, flat roofs and require no penetration to attach the racking or modules. Smucker’s can work with you to determine the best option for your system based on your roof type and other building factors.
Additionally, we provide monitoring solutions that ensure you’re getting the most out of your system—specific products allow you to track energy production on a panel-by-panel basis. This provides you with up-to-the-minute analysis on the performance of your system, and it can provide unique and creative PR opportunities—such as lobby monitors or website links showing solar production (for example, SolarWorld’s Sunmodules panels are the first green-certified solar panels by the National Green Building Standard… a great focal point for buildings focusing on green operation and production). More importantly, though, it keeps you fully informed of system performance so that in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, it can be quickly identified and resolved to ensure minimal production loss. This is very important on commercial systems with large panel strings—we realize that commercial solar is an investment, and we’re committed to helping you see and verify that your system is delivering the savings your business needs.
After a careful review of the information gathered in Phase One, a detailed design stage begins and fully engineered drawings of the system are generated, including: site plan, one-line drawing, module map, and inverter room drawing. The drawings are reviewed by the Smucker’s team of technicians and electricians who will complete the installation, and meetings are held between the design and installation teams to refine the design and create an installation plan. Once the electrical drawings are complete, the permit application is submitted and the design is sent to the state grant program for approval. At the same time, the Interconnection Utility Agreement (Part A) is submitted. During the pre-planning stage the project was divided into two main areas of work—the roof and the inverter room. This allowed the Smucker’s installation team to focus separately on the two work areas, enabling simultaneous progress on the solar array and the inverter room. Once the design receives approval from the utility through the Interconnection Utility Agreement and the work permit is received, the project moves into the installation phase and the on-site work begins.
On the broad roof of the facility, the clamps and racking that will secure the solar panels are laid down, and then the solar panels are attached. This facility has a standing seam roof which enables racking to be affixed to it without penetrating any part of the roof. The wires from each individual solar panel are connected to each other in groups called strings. Several strings are merged in a combiner box, which consolidates the power from the strings that feed into it. There is one output from each combiner box that runs through conduit into the inverter room, with a total of nine combiner boxes for this particular installation.
Inside, the area where the inverter room will be located is cleared and the locations of the five inverters, the three electric meters, the CT (current transformer) cabinet and the conduit runs are marked. There are conduits installed from the roof (to carry the DC power generated from the solar panels) to the inverters (where it will be converted to AC power), and there are conduits from the inverters to the main utility switchboard /distribution panel which will distribute the AC power to the building and send the excess to the power company. Once the conduits are installed, the wire is pulled through and connected, completing the electric circuits from the solar panels to the inverter inputs and from the inverter outputs to the main AC distribution panel.
Once the installation is complete, arrangements are made for inspections. In this case, officials from both the local utility and from the state grant program were required to inspect the work. Once the utility approves an installation, it can begin sending excess power to the grid. After the state grant program completes any necessary inspections and receives the completion paperwork from the approved installer, then the incentive monies are dispersed.
For systems of this size (and commercial systems in general), Smucker’s Energy highly recommends setting up a system output monitoring solution to ensure that it is immediately noticeable if the system is producing at a level below what is necessary to offset the energy usage. On this system, the amount of energy the panels are generating can be tracked using the revenue grade internet monitoring system that was incorporated into the design of this project. Via the internet, the client can access and monitor real-time energy output of the system. Total lifetime system output can also be viewed, as well as the outputs of the individual inverters.
In order for the client to begin accumulating green energy credits from their PV system, it must be registered in a few ways with the correct programs. In this case, since the installation is located in Pennsylvania, it had to first be registered with the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard Program (PA-EPS). Once registered, PA-EPS provides a certification number. This number is used to register the system with GATS (Generation Attribute Tracking System). The GATS system is what tracks the solar production over time. GATS turns the meter readings into actual SRECs that are ready to sell. For each 1,000 KWH (1 MWH) the system produces, the owner will receive one green energy credit that can be sold on a market much like that of a carbon market model. These credits are accumulated regardless of whether the client uses the energy the system produces or if it is pumped back onto the local utility grid. Green Energy Credits in Pennsylvania are called AECs (Alternative Energy Credits); other states refer to them as RECs or SRECs (Renewable Energy Credits and Solar Renewable Energy Credits, respectively). As a courtesy to our clients, Smucker’s Energy provides an aggregation service to handle all of your SRECs including all the paperwork; or you are free to enlist an aggregator of your choice.